Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda), which struck Southeast Asia in 2013, is the deadliest typhoon on record, claiming over 6,300 lives in the Philippines alone. Haiyan is now in the record books as the strongest typhoon to make landfall, and it also clocked the highest wind speeds ever recorded. The devastation in Southeast Asia was unimaginable, and as of January 2014, authorities were still discovering bodies strewn by the storm.

Similar to its cousins, the hurricane and cyclone, a typhoon is a spinning storm. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a typhoon is “a large storm having a circular system of violent winds, typically hundreds of miles in diameter.” The high-speed winds spiral violently around a region of low atmospheric pressure.

“Typhoon” is the name of these storms that occur in the Western Pacific. “Hurricane” is the name given to these storms in the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific. In the Indian Ocean, they are commonly called “tropical cyclones.”

For stronger typhoons, a characteristic structure called the “eye” forms when the maximum wind speeds exceed about 85 miles per hour, or 140 kilometers per hour. Usually several miles in diameter, the eye is a region of clear air with no clouds. The energy that powers typhoons comes from the evaporation of warm ocean water. The water vapor rises to the top of the typhoon, along the sides of the eye, and then condenses into clouds. Warmer ocean water produces more powerful typhoons, which can grow to become “super typhoons.”

Typhoon Survival

One of the best sources for preparedness for incoming typhoons is the U.S. military. With bases scattered throughout the region prone to typhoons, it has the experience to give us some solid advice. Base your typhoon survival plan on its strength and distance from your location.

LEVEL 1  A storm is in the area and is forecasted to hit with destructive winds in the next 48 hours. You should take the following steps:

1. Check your emergency supply kit. Replace any expired or damaged items.

2. Secure water for you and your family. A gallon of water per day per person is the recommended amount.

3. Check the batteries on all flashlights and make sure all lights are functioning.

4. Make sure you have a full tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.

5. Secure any loose items outside the house like trashcans and chairs.

LEVEL 2  A storm is in the area and is forecasted to hit with destructive winds in the next 24 hours. You should take the following steps:

1. Verify once again that your emergency kit is ready and accessible.

2. Withdraw emergency cash to last you in the event power is down for an extended period.

3. Begin to limit travel by you and your family members. Begin to gather into a safe area and brace for the storm.

4. Listen closely to the weather service as well as emergency frequencies.

LEVEL 3  A storm is in the area and is forecasted to hit with destructive winds in the next 12 hours. You should take the following steps:

1. Begin to fill water containers for both drinking and sanitation purposes.

2. Turn the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. This will help food last when power is lost. Only open the refrigerator when absolutely necessary.

3. Secure all of your home’s windows and doors. If storm shutters are available, lock them into place.

4. Close all of your home’s interior doors to help limit flying debris in the event windows get broken.

5. Gather all family members and evacuate the area if possible.

6. If you are staying in place, stay indoors until emergency personnel have given the “all clear.”

Are You Safe?

As the world metaphorically shrinks daily because of the ease and availability of travel, you may temporarily be in an unfamiliar location when you face one of these monster storms. With that in mind, you should be prepared for the worst.

While typhoons, by definition, occur in regions beyond the United States, they present a lesson for us here at home. We should look at the dangers posed by typhoons as real. A major storm has the potential to devastate large areas and bring chaos to our daily lives. Many of the same principles we use to protect ourselves from hurricanes apply to typhoons. Only through preparation and planning can we even begin to minimize their impact. Learn the lessons from abroad and apply them to our daily lives.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Spring 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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